"Chanson d'automne" ("Autumn Song") is a poem by Paul Verlaine (1844–1896), one of the best known in the French language. It is included in Verlaine's first collection, Poèmes saturniens, published in 1866 (see 1866 in poetry). The poem forms part of the "Paysages tristes" ("Sad landscapes") section of the collection.
The poem uses several stylistic devices and is in many ways typical of Verlaine, in that it employs sound techniques such as consonance (the repetition of "n" and "r" sounds) that also creates an onomatopoeic effect, sounding both monotonous and like a violin. In the second verse, the stop consonant and pause after the word suffocant reflect the meaning of the word. The sound of the words Deçà, delà, in the third verse evoke the image of a dead leaf falling. Verlaine uses the symbolism of autumn in the poem to describe a sad view of growing old.
Use in World War II
In preparation for Operation Overlord, the BBC's Radio Londres had signaled to the French Resistance with the opening lines of the 1866 Verlaine poem "Chanson d'Automne" were to indicate the start of D-Day operations under the command of the Special Operations Executive. The first three lines of the poem, "Les sanglots longs / des violons / de l'automne" ("Long sobs of autumn violins"), would mean that Operation Overlord was to start within two weeks. These lines were broadcast on 1 June 1944. The next set of lines, "Blessent mon coeur / d'une langueur / monotone" ("wound my heart with a monotonous languor"), meant that it would start within 48 hours and that the resistance should begin sabotage operations, especially on the French railroad system; these lines were broadcast on 5 June at 23:15.
In 1940 Charles Trenet made changes to the words of the poem in order to change it into a song. There has been speculation that it was the popularity of his version that led to the use of the poem by SOE.
A later French singer, Serge Gainsbourg, uses parts of the poem in the lyrics of his song Je suis venu te dire que je m'en vais ("I've come here to tell you that I am leaving").
- "Séries littéraires: Commentaire de Chanson d'Automne (French)". Archived from the original on 2018-06-24. Retrieved 2011-02-20.
- Lloyd Bishop, "Phonological Correlates of Euphony", The French Review, vol XLIX, no 1, Oct 1975
- Bowden, Mark; Ambrose, Stephen E. (2002). Our finest day: D-Day: June 6, 1944. Chronicle. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-8118-3050-8.
- Hall, Anthony (2004). D-Day: Operation Overlord Day by Day. Zenith. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-7603-1607-8.
- Roberts, Andrew (2011). The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War. HarperCollins. p. 74. ISBN 978-0-06-122859-9.
- Palacci, Eddy (2013). Des étoiles par cœur. Paris: Elzevir. Archived from the original on 2017-05-10. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
- Stuart Tappin (6 October 2017). "Trenet turned Verlaine's poem into chanson". Financial Times. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
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